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What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying in which the bully or group of bullies sends or posts hurtful images, messages, or threats through e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, mobile apps, or social media sites. This type of bullying, unlike other forms, often allows for anonymity and more frequent attacks or incursions.

Bullying is not to be taken lightly, as there can be serious consequences for everyone involved—the bully, the bullied, and the bystander. The Committee for Children reports that:

  • children who are bullied are more likely to develop future academic problems and psychological difficulties;
  • children who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and depression, anxiety, and insecurity that may continue into adulthood;
  • children who bully are more likely to experience a decline in their peer group status, which becomes more and more important in children’s social development as they enter the teen years; and
  • children who bully and continue this behavior as adults have greater difficulty developing and maintaining positive relationships.

Because cyberbullying takes place online, often in the form of communication through online social media and other mobile tools, this type of bullying tends to be more engaging for everyone involved.

  • Tweens and teens are particularly susceptible to the emotional impacts of cyber bullying because developmentally they are in the process of establishing their identity, may feel insecure and have fears about themselves, and are at an age when the opinions and acceptance of their peers are most important.
  • The nature of social media allows people to access personal information without the trust and intimacy that are typically established in face-to-face relationships. A victim of cyberbullying may initially view the potential bully as a “friend” because they are connected via online social media. The bully may also use personal information to connect with and target the victim.
  • Bystanders may participate in cyberbullying by liking, commenting, or gossiping about the bullying behaviors. These bystanders may not realize that they are providing the attention that a bully desires or that their behaviors may be harmful to the person being bullied.
  • Technology provides the bully or group of bullies with 24/7 access to post about, message, and harass the intended victim. Due to their often anonymous nature, these virtual attacks tend to occur more frequently and contain extreme language, threats, or desires that most bullies would not express to the victim in person. A victim of cyberbullying may feel like they have nowhere to hide, which can lead to depression, self-harming behaviors, and, sadly, even suicide.
  • Children may be reluctant to report bullying behaviors. Many tweens and teens rely on access mobile devices and the Internet as their primary way to connect with friends and socialize. Their access to these means of communication is important to feeling connected and some children may fear reporting bullying behaviors because they are worried their social media privileges, Internet access, and mobile phones or devices may be taken away.

What Parents Can Do
The Massachusetts Attorney General's office offers the following tips for parents in handling cybeybullying:

  • Look for warning signs. If your child’s Internet use becomes obsessive or if they become withdrawn from regular activities, they may be a victim of cyberbullying.
  • Tell your child not to respond. It is better to ignore distressing e-mails, messages, and comments.
  • Tell your child to “block” bullies. If harassment is via e-mail, social networking sites, IM, and/or chat rooms, delete or suspend your child’s current account and create a new one or block the bullies.
  • Save the evidence. Preserve/print/take screenshots or photos of comments and images sent via e-mail, websites or text messages. Note the date and time when the cyberbullying occurred.
  • Remove hurtful websites. Review your Internet service provider (ISP) or cell phone provider’s policy and follow the procedure to have any webpage created to hurt your child removed.
  • Get your child’s school involved. Learn the school’s policy on cyberbullying and ask for guidance on how to handle repeated incidents.
  • Become familiar with social media sites. Don’t be afraid to monitor your child’s use of the Internet and social media sites.

Other resources on OneToughJob.org

I Think My Child Is a Bully – What Should I Do?
I Think My Child Is Being Bullied – What Should I Do?
Your Child and Online Social Networking: What Parents Should Know
Your Child and Online Social Networking: What Parents Can Do
Internet Safety—What Parents Should Know
Internet Safety—What Parents Can Do

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